The nature of water is very much like Tao
CHAPTER 3: SUTRA 1, 2 & 3
THE EXCELLENCE OF WATER APPEARS IN ITS BEFITTING ALL THINGS, AND ITS OCCUPYING, WITHOUT STRIVING (TO THE CONTRARY) THE LOW PLACE WHICH ALL MEN DISLIKE. HENCE (ITS WAY) IS NEAR TO (THAT OF) TAO.
THAT OF THE MIND IS IN ABYSMAL STILLNESS; THAT OF ASSOCIATION IS IN THEIR BEING WITH THE VIRTUOUS; THAT OF GOVERNMENT IS IN ITS SECURING GOOD ORDER; THAT OF (THE CONDUCT) OF AFFAIRS IS IN ITS ABILITY:
AND THAT OF (INITIATION OF) ANY MOVEMENT IS IN ITS TIMELINESS.
(POSITION), NO ONE FINDS FAULT WITH HIM.
Where does excellence reside?
Normally, when we think of the excellence of a person, we do so with regard to his status, his wealth or his fame. Forever the reason is outside the individual. If the status is no more, if the fame or the wealth vanishes, the excellence of the man vanishes with it.
Lao Tzu says: "That excellence which can be taken away, is no excellence." The excellence which depends on some outside object, is the excellence of that object and not the person. If I have wealth and hence my excellence, that excellence belongs entirely to my wealth and not me. If I hold a position, my excellence is entirely due to the position and not me. If my excellence is because I possess something that makes me excellent, that is not my excellence. If I am excellent without any reason, only then am I excellent.
Lao Tzu says: "Excellence lies in the person of an individual, and not in his attainments, rather in his nature." It does not lie in what he has but rather in what he is. How are we to measure this virtue, what criterion do we have? We can measure the wealth of a person, the height of his position, even his renunciation and also his learning. We can also find out how good or bad he is or how popular he is but what criterion can we have to measure the excellence that resides in the very being of the man?
No one can be excellent through an outside reason. Lao Tzu is very right when he says this. The truth is, that those who hanker after these outside virtues are the most third-rate people. When a man toils to seek excellence through wealth, one thing is proved that he has gained no virtue within himself. The same goes for a politician and for those who aspire to rank and position. When a man seeks excellence outside of himself, it goes to show that he experiences quite the opposite within him.
A great psychoanalyst of the West, Adler, has given a doctrine to the West, which can be called a substitute for Lao tzu's theory. He has said, "Whoever strives to be superior is inferior within." So a very interesting phenomenon takes place. Those who experience on inferiority-complex within themselves strive and attain position, wealth in order to be acclaimed among the excellent. They want to prove to the world and hence try their utmost for recognition outside.
I have heard that once, a follower of Adler who was himself a very great psychologist, was delivering a lecture in a town. He said, "Those who are poor within, seek wealth outside; those who are cowards, weak, seek valour outside and become great warriors too. Those who are shallow within seek profundity without". Nasruddin happened to be there. He got up and said, "Pardon me sir, may I ask in that case that those who become psychologists are mentally weak or inferior?" This too, is possible. This is not a joke; it is quite possible that those who are eager to know the working of the minds of others have a deep sense of pain and depression within their own minds. In fact, whatever we set out to do, is because of some reason within us.
Lao Tzu says, "Virtue resides within us." It is in our very selves, in our nature. But how shall we know this virtue? How do we recognize it? We are only acquainted with one kind of excellence which Lao Tzu says betrays the poverty within the man rather than anything else. Lao Tzu says there is a way of knowing. "THE HIGHEST EXCELLENCE IS LIKE THAT OF WATER!" This is the criterion.
The nature of water is, that it flows to the lowest level without making any effort. It is its very nature - to flow to a lower level. Leave it on a mountain and soon you will find it in the valley below. And for this, it has to make no effort. It does not have to do anything about it. It merely slips from a higher level to a lower level. So it falls in the valley. And if there were pits and hollows in the valley. it will easily glide into it also.
Lao Tzu says: "The supreme excellence is like the water." An excellent man, seeks the lowest level, he does not seek the heights. Why? This seems to be a strange characteristic. No better symbol has been put forth in the 2,500 years following Lao tzu. This is the ultimate definition of excellence of virtue. What is the reason? Let us view this from another angle and then we shall be able to follow it.
A lowly person always endeavours to reach a high position. Given the opportunity he will not miss it.
He will try his utmost even if he does not get an opportunity. All his life he strives at going up - and up - and up! Then be this dimension of any kind: wealth, status, fame, knowledge, renunciation - it makes no difference. An inferior man can even declare to attain God and swear not to rest until he can proclaim "I am God!".
According to Lao Tzu, the ambition to reach the ultimate state of God-hood is against the nature of water. It can be compared to the nature of fire - to give an example. The flame always goes up.
No matter how much you press it down, it rises up as soon as you lift the pressure. Fire never goes downwards. If we hold a lamp upside down the flame will still go upwards. If you want to direct the flame downwards, you will have to make a lot of effort. You will have to press it down very forcefully.
If the ego has to be forced down, it requires a great deal of labour. The water however, flows down naturally. If you wish to direct it upwards, it will need a lot of labour on your part. You will have to make arrangements to pump the water up. Even then, on the slightest opportunity, the water will flow down.
This characteristic of flowing down is, according to Lao Tzu, the chief characteristic of Excellence.
Only he will be prepared to go down, whose excellence is so indisputable and definite that it is not destroyed by going down. He alone is eager to reach the top who knows that if he remains at the bottom, he will be considered low. If he rises up, he too will be termed excellent. The inferiority- complex within, goads him to go up and up. If there is excellence of virtue, within, a man likes to lose himself in an abyss. Why? Why this talk of going deep into an abyss? Because there is no competition, no struggle there; no one is willing to go there.
I have heard that once a man approached Nasruddin and said, "I want to settle down in your village and play my trade honestly." Nasruddin replied, "You are welcome. There is no competition in our village, for all tradesmen are dishonest."
Lao Tzu says, "That intrinsic excellence stands where there is no struggle." And there is no struggle till the very end. Therefore excellence seeks the ultimate background. That alone is its shield of protection.
The King of China was after Lao Tzu, that he should become his prime-minister, for a wiser person than he, was difficult to find. Had he just accepted the post, that was enough to raise the king's prestige sky-high. The king's men dogged Lao-Tzu's feet. Lao Tzu would leave the village as soon as he came to know that the king's men had arrived in search of him.
With great difficulty, Lao Tzu was caught. He was sitting on the bank of a river catching fish. The captain of the king's party approached him with folded hands and said, "You do not know why we are following you! The king has ordered that you be given the place of the highest honour in the kingdom. You are to become the prime-minister!" Lao Tzu sat quiet, without a word. The leader of the party thought, he had not heard. He shook him and said, "Don't you hear what I say?" Nearby in a hollow filled with slush, there was some movement. Lao Tzu said, "Do you see that hollow? What is there in it? Why is it moving?"
The leader and his party went up to the puddle and saw a tortoise wallowing in the slush.
Lao Tzu says, "I have heard that there is a tortoise in the palace of your king which is covered with gold". The gold-encrusted tortoise was the emblem of the king of China in those days. "You have heard right," said the headman. "If you were to ask this tortoise to come with you to the palace, be covered with gold and be worshipped once in a year, do you think he will agree?" Asked Lao Tzu.
"Or will he prefer to stay in this slush and be free?" "If he has any sense," replied the headman, "he will remain where he is; for to be encrusted in gold is to die. Then what use will all the worship be to him?"
Lao Tzu says, "I have at least as much understanding as this poor tortoise! Please go. I'm happy in my slush. Do not try to encrust me in gold; for then I shall die." In fact, to be encrusted in gold add to die are one and the same thing. No one can be encrusted in gold before he dies. The higher the post you want to attain, the more dead you have to become. The greater the wealth you want to achieve the more dead you have to be. It is difficult to climb up without becoming dead. All heights are suicidal! The excellence of water lies in its benevolence towards others and in its humility because of which it occupies with ease, the lowest place, which we look down upon. This is why the nature of water is akin to Tao.
Lao Tzu says, "Tao means religion; Tao means nature; Tao means form. The Supreme Law of Existence is Tao. This order of water is very near Tao. He who attains Tao, he who attains this supreme excellence, also like wise prefers to be at the lowest, to be the very last in line. He stands in the shadow where he may not be seen. He is in the very last line of a crowd, where there is no scuffle, no jostling and whenever someone comes, he leaves his place and goes further backwards."
There are two types of people in this world: those who go in front and those who prefer to stay behind. The latter are born once in. a while - same Buddha, same Lao Tzu, same Christ. Those who surge forward, their number is great.
Nasruddin went to a meeting. He was late and so there was no place in front. He had to sit on the doorstep. He was very restless for he was used to occupying the president's chair. Soon he began to talk to the people around him, He began to tell stories. More and more people became interested and in a few minutes, all the crowd turned round towards him. The president of the meeting now sat facing the back of the crowd. He called out to Nasruddin and said, "What is this Mulla? I am the chairman of this meeting!"
Nasruddin replied, "I know of no status. I only know this, that wherever I am, that is the president's chair. A meeting can go on only in two ways: either I am the chairman or there is no meeting." He had to be called to the chair. Then the meeting proceeded.
Nasruddin said, "Wherever I am, that is the place of the president". That is exactly the desire of everybody. We wish to be the centre of the whole world and all the suns and stars go round us.
Therefore when Galileo said for the first time that it is not the sun that goes round the earth but it is the earth that goes round the sun the whole of mankind was rudely shocked. This shock to mankind was not because of either the sun or the earth but because of the fact that the earth that was considered by him as the centre of all universe, was not the centre!
Man always thought the earth to be the centre of the universe and that the sun, moon and stars, revolved round it. My earth! Man's earth! So Galileo gave a rude shock to man. He says, "The sun does not go round the earth. It is the earth that goes round the sun; and this sun is a satellite of bigger suns. We are not the centre then!"
Yet man was quite confident of his position. Till the time of Darwin, he thought God had created him in His own image. Thus did man write about himself. If donkeys were to write a treatise on the evolution of the earth, they would say God created an ass in His own image! They will not be prepared to believe man's version. So since books are written by men, it is said that God made man in His own image - he is his supreme creation. But Darwin with his theory, created a lot of difficulties. He said there was nothing to prove that man is the image of God on earth. According to his findings, man has evolved from the Ape! This was a rude shock to man's ego. The opposition that Darwin had to encounter was not because he had said anything wrong but because it was a blow to man's ego.
In this century Freud is the third person who has shaken man's ego once again. Man always thought he was a rational being. Freud said: "It is difficult to find a creature more irrational than man."
Whatever man does is irrational but his cunning is that he covers it up with rationalisation. So he seeks excuses for what he wants to do.
If he wants to fight, he finds excuses. If he does not want to fight, he finds excuses. If he wants to make love, he finds reason thereof, if he wants to despise, he finds reasons thereof. He is forever finding excuses. He does what he wants first, then finds excuses. We all do this. If I say, "I do not like you" and I give my reasons also even then the dislike has already registered in my emotions first, then I find reasons.
You like a person. You say he is pleasant and nice therefore you like him; but Freud says you like him that is why you say he is pleasant and nice. The liking comes first, the reason follows. The moon is beautiful and therefore you like it - or is it that you like it and hence you find it beautiful? Say, you have become insolvent, you are weighed down with worries - the same moon will no longer appear beautiful. Then the moon looks sad and weary; it too appears bankrupt. Your feelings are projected on the moon. What you feel within, you project without.
But man is clever. He finds logical arguments for his blind feelings and says these are his interpretations. The moon is beautiful, hence we like it. Such and such a man is full of virtues, hence we respect him; but the truth is very much different. You revere a person first, then you start to find out the reason why; and when you revere him no longer and malign .him, then too you think you do so because you have found him lacking in virtue. This is wrong. The malevolence comes first in your mind, faults and shortcomings, you find later on.
Before Freud, the prevalent opinion was, that man used his intellect and power of reasoning in whatever he did. Since the last fifty years however. Psychoanalysts have come to the conclusion that man does not make use of his intellect in his dealings.
Bertrand Russell has mentioned an experiment in one of his looks. He got a soap factory to take the opinion of Britain's ten topmost scientists and advertise their comment on their produce. At the same time, he approached another soap factory which produced a low quality soap and stood nowhere near the other company's soap. He told them to get a third-rate film .actress to comment on their soap saying she used it for her beauty. The sale of this soap increased by leaps and bounds whereas the good quality soap recommended by the scientists, did not sell at all!
Man is a rational creature - very rational. Those ten topmost scientists' opinion did not mean anything to them; while an ordinary dancing-girl mattered a great deal. The scientists talk with the intellect whereas the filmstar appeals and stimulates that part of you which lies behind the intellect.
Now everybody has become wise to the fact that if you have any goods to sell, you place a girl before your wares and that does the trick. You can sell almost anything this way. All you have to do is to stand a half-clad woman beside it! All the comments of scientists and sages will hold no water against this ordinary dancing girl. The reason is plainly this that man is not a rational creature. He has deluded himself that he is. The mechanism that works within him works entirely on his emotions.
This however, he is not willing to accept. He likes to believe - and does believe - that he is the most rational creation that has descended directly from God.
The shocks that mankind has suffered in the last 150 years has managed to destroy the castle of his ego.
Lao Tzu says: "There is no need to build a castle. He is a mad man who tells you to." Lao Tzu has not once mentioned God in his statements. This he does knowingly for he says as soon as you mention God, you try to identify your ego with Him. Lao Tzu does not mention God or the Ultimate, achieve - ment or beatitude. He says, "The ultimate achievement is, that you stand last in the row - that is beatitude."
No one is prepared to stand last. You can persuade a man to do anything as long as he is well in the forefront. Be that work as absurd and stupid as possible, if he is in the front, he will not require much persuasion. If however, you tell him that God is attained only by being last in the rank and file, he is not prepared to fall back. The lowliness within us cannot bear this. Only if there is supreme excellence within, does a man voluntarily step back and be the last.
It is an interesting fact that only those reach in the forefront, who stand behind. The ultimate height of beatitude is attained only by those who seek out valleys, may the deepest of abysses like water.
Keeping in mind the law of the opposites, Lao Tzu gives one message only: "He who becomes like the water, attains Tao."
The excellence of a dwelling depends on the propriety of the place - but not for us. These statements are not meant for us. Lao Tzu says: "THE EXCELLENCE OF A DWELLING PLACE, DEPENDS ON THE FITNESS OF THE PLACE." This does not apply to us for when we set out to buy a house we do not consider its worth as a residence, we are more concerned as to how much its situation and workmanship helps to project our ego. This is why many a time, you are prepared to stay in an uncomfortable place if it is adjoining to the houses of the rich gentry. You will not be prepared to stay in a comfortable house if it is in a poor locality. We are not worried about the suitability or fitness of a house; all that concerns us is the gratification of the ego.
We put up with a lot of inconveniences just to fulfil the ego. If the ego is satisfied hv putting on a tie, we will put up with heat and perspiration. If respectability demands that we put o shoes we will put them on even if they hurt! In China women used to reduce the size of their feet by wearing iron shoes. Small feet were the mark of a genteel lady! This is why the feet became a sex-symbol in China, just as the breast have become a sex-symbol nowadays.
For 5,000 years no one paid any attention to the woman's breasts in China. The attention was all on her feet. A small foot and a man would become mad with passion! It is no longer so, for the concept has changed. This was a conditioning of the mind in China for 5,000 years. The pain and agony of a woman with big feet cannot be imagined. Now this was not because of the feet themselves. If, in fact, the feet are big, you can walk better, run better and you are much stronger. The body also can be properly balanced. But that was not the question. The suitability of the place did not depend on its fitness but rather in the fulfillment of the ego. A woman who could walk without support was not considered of a genteel family.
The same conditions prevail even today, only the symbol has changed. You are ready to undergo a thousand discomforts if it satisfies your ego. You can leave a thousand pleasures if it does not feed your ego. Man is ready to be a martyr and willing to bear any hardship in his journey towards ego-fulfillment. Our clothes, our houses, our ornaments, our cars, in none of these do we worry about their suitability or usefulness. We are not even concerned what we eat as long as it appears respectable and nourishes our ego.
When a guest comes to the house, you do not worry whether the meals served are well-balanced and conducive to health. This is why invariably the guest falls sick later on. The guest must fall sick or else your hospitality will not be extolled. It would then mean he was not looked after properly. Not only you, even the guest would think on these lines! The food served is not with an eye on good health but is connected directly with the ego of the host. He should be served with such delicacies which he has never heard of before!
Women load themselves with ornaments. If they are asked to carry a bag of the same weight, they will be aghast at your impertinence! Those women who consider themselves very delicate, even they do not mind going about with a kilo or two of gold on them. Gold can be carried but not iron of equal weight. On the ordinary scales, a kilo of gold is equivalent to a kilo of iron but not so on the scales of the ego! If iron has to be carried, the hands pain, but if gold has to be carried, you develop wing What is the reason, what happens?
Women of Africa wear necklaces of bones round their necks. Their necks are loaded like the camel but they find no difficulty in going about. Normally, if a person is thus loaded, he would cry out that you are strangling him but if this is a criterion of beauty, it is accepted. Anything is accepted when it becomes a criterion of beauty.
The youth of America today are happy to live in all kind of filth for the Hippies have given a value to dirt and squalor. The Hippies say that all cleanliness is bourgeoise. The soap and the powder, the very act of bathing belongs to the class of the idle rich, the capitalists. These things are all false and belong to the false man, the real man does not worry about them. So dirt has acquired a new value today. Now if anyone wants to join the ranks of the Hippies, dirt is a sign of respectability, so he will have to remain filthy. The dirtier a person, the greater the Hippie. If a clean-shaven, clean-clothed person comes along they revile him and poke fun at him. They say, "Look, here comes the square!"
Hippies have started a new concept and many a young girl or boy, has accepted this new criterion.
They are prepared to stay in dirt and squalor; if their bodies stink, they are more respectable hippies.
This has not happened for the first time in the world. We have always set our values. The Jain Sadhu does not bathe. So when a person goes to a Jain Sadhu and he does not stink of perspiration, the devotee becomes suspicious. He does not clean his mouth. When a Jain Sadhu talks his mouth must smell - that is the proof of his saintliness. If no foul smell comes from his mouth, the devotee is worried. Surely he makes use of dental cream! The fact is, nowadays he does.
Now the Jain Sadhu of today is in a great dilemma. u His difficulty is, that he has a mark of ` respectability, 2,000 years old. He moves around in the world of today, he sees, he reads and he finds that even the toothpaste has its own value in the world of today. Now both these values hold good tor him. He is in a terrible state of contusion. So now he does both. He hides the toothpaste in his bundle and shows as if he does not use it. In the same manner, he bathes also. A Jain Sadhvi came to see me once. I asked her how it was that she was not smelling? She said, "I must tell you the truth. I cannot bear the smell of perspiration so I sponge myself everyday. Please do not tell anyone or else I shall lose my piety." The piety of a person is judged from her amount of abstinence from all rules of cleanliness!
The Jains had one set of value: that he who bathes is a materialistic person. His emphasis is on the body. To keep the body clean, to drape it with fineries, are the characteristics of a materialist.
The spiritualist should not worry about the body at all. Some people went even a step further than the Jains. They were known as the Param Hansas. These people would relieve themselves and sit and eat right next to the excreta! If he did not, he was not looked upon as a Param Hansa. All those whose names are followed by this term Param Hansa, have been people of this type. Whatever thing we set our value on and make it a vehicle to satisfy our ego, man is forever prepared to accept and follow. How strange is man!
When you hear all this, you may be thinking that all this applies to other people. Do not be under that illusion! If you look at yourself and do a little introspection, you will find a hundred things you do in much the same way. If there is a certain fashion - say of dressing - which is against your nature and which makes you very uncomfortable, you will still follow it, if that is the current mark of respectability. A man wants to establish his superiority over the others in his neighbourhood. So he goes and buys a car which he can ill-afford. But buy he will, if only to be one over the others.
One day Nasruddin's wife told him: "Now there are only two ways out. Either buy a bigger car or change the locality - whichever in cheaper." Nasruddin replied, "It will be cheaper to buy a car. If we move to a new locality we shall have to start afresh. And who knows what all things the new neighbours might have?" Each one tries to go one over the other and no one is worried about what their actual needs are.
Lao Tzu says, "THE EXCELLENCE OF A DWELLING DEPENDS ON THE SUITABILITY OF THE PLACE." It is possible sometimes that a tree is more suitable than a royal palace or a single loin-cloth more befitting than costly clothes. People are very funny. They will bare themselves and lie in the sun if that is a mark of respectability. Then people will lie thus even if there is no need to do so! Fat women are always trying to lose weight and the thin ones are eager to put on weight.
In America, if a woman did not have black hair, she would do anything to turn them black. If her hair is black she will do anything to change the colour. The madness continues one way or the other.
No one is bothered what is suitable. The only concern is - what is the trend? The trend however, changes every day.
There are many who set the trend these days and we do not even know about them. Ben Packard has written a book called "THE HIDDEN PERSUADERS". Their business it is to coax, to entice.
There are hidden persuaders all around. A certain pattern of a cloth remains in vogue for about six months. Then the mills change the pattern for it wears off in the mind of customers. The cloth can remain the same but the pattern must change if the mills are to survive. Similarly with soap and other things. There are hidden persuaders. As soon as one brand of soap catches on in the market, these hidden persuaders start advertising a new brand and spread rumours that the old brand is now out of fashion. Now every one wants to keep pace with the latest trend, otherwise they feel lifeless. They must be right in the centre of fashions and this entails a lot of change on your part.
Now the biggest question in America is the disposal of old cars. They do not have space to stack the old cars. Every six months the models change. As far as the car itself goes, there is no need to change the model; but as far as the ego goes, it needs to be changed every month or better still, every day. However the production of cars is so much that the changing of models every year, is also not enough to sell them. So the hidden persuaders now go about spreading the word that one car is the sign of an ordinary man; a rich man must have two. So now the bigger man has two cars.
The bigger man has two houses. Even a poor man has one house. So now every man in America strives to have two houses; one for himself the other for his ego. He cannot possibly stay in both the houses, so one or the other invariably remains unoccupied. Yet he must have two if he is to be counted amongst those who matter.
I was the guest of a very rich man once. His house had 100 rooms. They were only the two of them: husband and wife. I asked them what they did with all these 100 rooms? "Nothing," said the husband. And that is their value. A poor man has to make the best use of his rooms, whereas a rich man can afford to keep them empty. "That is what it is. We keep them well cleaned, well decorated.
What else can we do with them? After all, we are only two. We have no children, For us, one room is enough." Man can stay in one room but even 99 rooms are not enough for the ego. We are not concerned with the utility of the place.
"THE MIND'S EXCELLENCE IS IN ITS COMPLETE STILLNESS."
Lao Tzu says, "THE MIND'S EXCELLENCE IS IN ITS COMPLETE STILLNESS." But the excellence of our mind lies in its profound garrulousness. The more a man is stuffed with words and thoughts the more superior he appears to be. But Lao Tzu says: "In the deepest stillness, where the mind is completely void and silent, there alone lies its excellence." Why? Because where the mind becomes empty, there alone do we encounter Truth. Where the mind becomes Void, there alone does tranquility spread. Where the mind is naught, there alone is the end of all pain. The more the mind works, the more is the pain and suffering. The longer the mind's journey, the greater is the destination of sorrow achieved.
Alas, we are such, we forever strive to know more, to think more, to ponder more and increase our wealth of words! If a man cannot express himself, who makes little use of words or thoughts, he is considered to be a rustic, an illiterate person. It is not necessary that a rustic, should be less intelligent than you. By and large, he is more intelligent. One thing is certain; he speaks less, he thinks less and therefore he appears primitive, for you can manipulate, you can play with words, whereas he cannot.
Only those people are successful in our culture, who can play with words. So we encourage our children to learn words to learn languages and literature. I do not say: do not learn literature. What I mean is, it is not the absolute excellence of the mind. If the mind gets anything out of it, it is the outside excellence. The inner excellence is never attained this way.
Those who have known the bliss within, have been up to now, those people, who have left the garbage of words outside of them and entered within.
"THE EXCELLENCE OF ASSOCIATION IS IN THEIR BEING WITH THE VIRTUOUS."
Have you ever pondered when you experience the excellence of association? If you stand next to the governor and your picture is taken, you feel you have been in excellent company. If you have your picture taken with a film star, you feel you have attained something. A well-known comedy actor Bob Hope had visited the army fighting on the battle-front, in order to entertain them. General Mac Arthur was also present. After the entertainment programme was over, he was very happy to have his photo taken with Gen. Mac Arthur. The General told him to send him a copy of the picture. Bob was puzzled - what did the general want with his photograph? He sent him one copy however. He also wrote to the general and expressed his wish to know why he had asked for this photograph.
Mac Arthur in his reply said: "When my son saw me standing next to you in the picture he said, 'Daddy this is your first picture with an excellent and well-known personality.'" To the son, Mac Arthur was of no value - as all fathers are to their sons. But Bob is a filmstar and his father is standing with a celebrated personality!
Just think for a moment; if you were given the opportunity to have your picture taken, with whom would you, like to be photographed? ninety-nine per cent it will be a film personality, ten per cent a political minister and a stray chance - perhaps with a saint, a pious person but this is very doubtful.
You may refute this statement outwardly but it is very much so within.
A religious teacher, once handed out a questionnaire to the students. One of the questions was:
Which is the greatest book in the world? Someone wrote, the book of Shakespeare, someone said the BIBLE, or the KORAN, or the ZEND AVASTA or GITA. Each one wrote the name of the book he liked. After collecting all the answers he asked; "Have you read the book you have mentioned? "We have not read them", they replied, "but these are great books. No one reads them. The books we read are quite different but you have not enquired about them." Actually the meaning of a great book is this only that its name is well-known and nobody reads it. As long as it is read, it cannot be great.
Then there is something wrong with it.
"The excellence of association lies in the company of saints," Says Lao Tzu. The greatest of excellence in this world is the excellence of association. To be in the company of a saint, is a golden- opportunity in the world. This however does not mean physical association. It is quite possible that you may be made to stand next to Buddha and yet there has been no association with the Saint; for this requires preparation on your part. What kind of preparation? The same preparedness like the down-flow of water! Then only can you attain the association of a saint. If you are prone to climb up, this cannot be. This is why the age-old custom that whenever a person approached the guru, he placed his head on his feet. Thus he conveys to the guru that he is prepared to be like water. This became an inevitable part of attaining the company of the saints - this placing of the head on the Guru's feet!
Everything gradually becomes a formality but this in no way reduces its value. But he who thus comes and places his head on the Master's feet, conveys by his body gesture, that he is ready to shake off everything, to destroy his ego, if he were to obtain his Master's grace!
Association - association with a sage - is an unequalled, unparalleled moment.
When Buddha was born, a great renunciate came from the Himalayas to Buddha's house. Buddha's father brought the new-born babe and placed it at the feet of the sage. This great renunciate was about 100 years old. Tears began to flow from his eyes. Buddha's father was frightened. He said, "You are a great Tapasvi. You are crying! What ill-omen do you see in the child? This is my moment of supreme happiness. Please be happy and bless the child! Or is it that you see some tragedy in his life?"
The old sage replied: "No, no! No evil can befall this child! The tragedy is for me. This child is born and destined to be a Buddha; but I shall then no longer be in this world. I cry that I will not have the golden opportunity to sit at his feet! For then I would have attained what I could not attain for infinite lives. But that is not to be. The moment of my death is drawing near and it will be full forty years when he reaches the state of the Buddha. When he blossoms into flower, I shall no longer be. That is why I cry."
Here is a man who cries that he will not be with Buddha forty years hence; but there were people also, who when they heard of Buddha's approach fled their town and ran away. There is the story of a girl called Gautami. As soon as she heard of Buddha's arrival, she would leave the town because she said many people were spoiled by association with him. Whoever was attracted by his talks, landed himself in difficulty. So many became sannyasins, so many became Bhikshus and so many closed their eyes and were drowned in meditation! People worry no longer about wealth or status.
People go mad! This man is hypnotic, one should beware of him!
But one day she missed. Buddha suddenly reached a village and Gautami happened to pass him on the road. She did not know when suddenly she came upon him. She was of the same age as Buddha and belonged to the same place. Since years she was running away from him. She avoided his very shadow. But when one runs away so much, there is some pleasure in it; when one tries to escape so much, the fear is there. And she is well aware of the radiance and the brilliance of his personality. Now when she suddenly came upon him, she stopped for a moment and said, "Are you same other Buddha? You are pulling me towards you!" Buddha replied, "I am the same Buddha whom you are trying to escape. Today we have met accidentally." She fell at his feet at once and was initiated into Sannyas. Buddha asked her, "But you were trying always to run away from me?"
"Yes, " she replied, "But there was always a longing within, one love thought - to see you just once.
Perhaps because of this thought I was running away from you. Perhaps I was afraid, perhaps I knew that one look and I shall be gone! And it has happened today - just by chance!"
There were people who ran away from Buddha. There were people who plugged their ears so that they may not hear the voice of Mahavira. There were people who were keen to kill Jesus so that his words may not reach the people. Such people were also there.
Lao Tzu says, "THE EXCELLENCE OF ASSOCIATION IS THE COMPANY OF THE VIRTUOUS."
And who are the virtuous? Whom do we call virtuous? Have we any criterion to measure a saint or a sinner? No, there is only one measure. He in whose company you can relax completely, in whose company you feel bliss, peace and in whose presence you experience light, he is a saint.
Do not worry about what he eats or what he drinks; or what he wears and what he does not wear; or what he says or does not say. You do not also worry about what people say or do not say about him. You carry out the test yourself. But before you carry out the test, you will have to experiment on yourself. You shall have to be like water; and who becomes like water immediately comes to recognise a saint and the moment of association is attained. Then let the world say anything, it makes no difference.
IF THE EXCELLENCE OF ASSOCIATION IS IN THEIR BEING WITH THE VIRTUOUS, THE EXCELLENCE OF GOVERNMENT IS IN ITS SECURING GOOD ORDER. The good order Lao Tzu speaks about is very wonderful. Lao tzu says: "Good order is that where there is no need of order." Lao Tzu is a strange man! He says, "I call it order when no order is needed." If when the king arrives, his arrival has to be announced by the beat of drum so that people may stand respectfully, that is no order according to Lao Tzu. If however, people became silent when the king enters and the silence conveys that the king has arrived, then that is order. Lao Tzu says: "I call it order when no order is needed".
If the Guru has to proclaim: "I am the master, respect me," then it is as good as an insult. So Lao Tzu says, "Guru is he, whom you cannot but respect; and even you are not aware how you paid your respect. When you lift your head from his feet, then you realize that your head had bowed in obeisance. This is reverence according to Lao Tzu.
All Lao-Tzu's statements are contrary to the general understanding. He says where order is required there is no order. Where police is required to prevent theft, that is a society of thieves. Where prisons are required to prevent crimes, it is a congregation of criminals. Order is only where no prisons are required, where there are no policemen and where there are also no sadhus and sannyasins explaining to people; 'Do not steal, do not be dishonest, do not do this or that.' Lao Tzu says, "THE EXCELLENCE OF GOVERNMENT IS IN GOOD ORDER."
"THE EXCELLENCE OF THE CONDUCT OF AFFAIRS IS IN ITS ABILITY"; and by this he means exactly what Krishna says: "He alone is proficient in his actions, whose sense of 'the doer' is lost and only the action remains." When the doer exists, it interferes in the proficiency of the act. You must have noticed whilst driving a car that at the moment when an accident takes place, the driver has stepped in, in the place of the act of driving. When there is only driving and no driver, no accidents take place - at least on your part. When the driver comes in between the act of driving, then there is trouble. By driver I mean you - when you start thinking about how expert a driver you are and so on. Where the doer exists, the proficiency of the act is lost. The excellence of the method of work lies in the skillfulness of the act - act without the sense of doer-ship.
Only then is an act performed without the sense of doer-ship when there is no expectation of reward.
When a reward is expected, the doer is present. When no reward is expected, the act itself is enough - it is enough unto itself. This is why, when we do anything without an eye on the result, it turns out to be excellent. If you do gardening as a hobby, your skill at gardening will be superb. If you paint for pleasure, your concentration on painting will become meditation. If you play the sitar, not professionally, then it is your own delight. Then the proficiency you attain, is the excellence that Lao Tzu talks about. This is why so much pleasure is derived from a hobby than normal work. This is because in your everyday work the doer is present whereas in your hobby the doer is not required; there is no question of earning and the doing itself is a pleasure.
THE EXCELLENCE OF THE INITIATION OF ANY MOVEMENT LIES IN ITS TIMELINESS. Any movement or any thought or organisation or any religion succeeds only if the times are favourable.
Any movement succeeds only if it satisfies the needs of the times. But there is a danger to it also because all movements are related to their particular times. Then what happens is, that time passes but the movement remains.
There are at present, 300 religions in the world; and all these 300 of them are not necessary for our times. One religion is enough for today. This however, is not possible for all the 300 religions were born in 300 different periods of time. Those periods are now long over, but the skeletons of the religions still remain. Those who cling to them, refuse to let them go for they say they were created by their ancestors. They were successful in their times, only because they were suitable for their time and today this is the very reason for their failure; for all these religions are no longer suitable to our age.
Whatever Buddha said was of use 2,500 years ago. If a person merely keeps repeating his words in the modern age, he knows nothing of the logic of life. What Mahavira has said is also of a language
Lao Tzu himself was a failure in his times. His movement could gain no ground because he spoke in the language of timelessness. He could not succeed because he spoke the language of Eternity.
Whenever a person speaks in the language of Eternity, his movement does not succeed. For any movement to succeed, the language spoken should be the language of the prevailing time, which can be easily understood. Lao Tzu was aware of this fact but it was beyond him to give rise to any movement; What he spoke pertained to Eternity.
Therefore, a curious fact comes to light: All the successful movements ultimately become a noose round the neck! People like Lao Tzu are never so but then, they give rise to no movement also!
People like Lao Tzu never lead the people astray for they do not also speak the proper language to lead them to the right path. Buddha, Mahavira, Krishna, Christ and Mohammed were successful because they spoke the language of their times; but then this very thing became the bondage.
Now what is needed is that someone should scatter the language of their times and unfold and bring out the timeless essence that lies hidden underneath. This however, the followers find difficult to do.
They say you must repeat the full prayer as it is and make no changes here or there.
Aurangzeb hanged a man just on this slight issue. There was a man by the name of Sharmad.
He did not repeat the full prayer that Muslims repeat continuously. The prayer is "There, is no God except One." Sharmad repeated only the first half of the prayer. He would say "There is no God."
The priests were distressed by this. They went and complained to Aurangzeb. Sharmad was called before the emperor and ordered to explain himself. He said he did not say the prayers wrong, what words were, he repeated. He admitted he repeated only half the prayer. When it was pointed out that half the prayer changed the meaning completely, he still insisted on saying only half the prayer. He said, "As yet, I know only the first half, the other half I have yet to experience. The day I experience the other half of the prayer, I shall include it in my prayers. As long as I have no knowledge of the existence of God, I shall not repeat the second half of the prayer."
Verily this man was branded an Atheist; what could be more atheistic than this? He was beheaded.
This sweet story is a historical fact. There were thousands who witnessed the beheading of Sharmad. When before the Masjid in Delhi, Sharmad's head rolled down the steps of the Masjid, it is said that a voice arose from his streaming blood repeating the prayer in full: "There is no God, except One." Those who loved and revered Sharmad say that that One and only God is known only when a person gets beheaded. But if we go by the language of the Koran only, Sharmad appears to be an atheist but the fact is, Sharmad alone is a Theist.
The pain and remorse that gnawed at the heart of Aurangzeb till his dying day was the pain of having beheaded Sharmad. In his last moments he said, "I am not worried about any other sins I committed, for they all could not equal the one sin I committed of having Sharmad killed. If this sin is forgiven me, all other sins will naturally be nullified. If this is not forgiven, there is no hope for me."
Naturally - all movements, all languages all manifestations. succeed if they befit the times of their Age but this has also been the very cause of their failure. Therefore, the wise and the intelligent, shake off the ashes of the old from time to time and unfold and clear the transcendental perpetually.
So much wisdom alas! the followers never possess or else they never would have been followers.
When so much wisdom dawns on mankind we shall never lose all the matter that is precious and also all the priceless truths.
One last thing:
A saint is revered and respected only as long as he raises no useless controversy about his low position. This is the last condition Lao Tzu has added. It is quite possible that you may take on the low position and then go about telling others: "See, the sinners are in the forefront while the virtuous are pushed behind. The wicked are victorious and the simple are defeated. The dishonest are mentioned in papers whereas the wise go unheeded." There are people all around who wail thus. They always complain: "What is this justice in the world of God that the thief is successful and the good man is not?"
Lao Tzu says: "If ever you wrangle about your position, know that you are not an excellent person."
All the reverence and respect given to you, will end. Your greatness lies in the fact that you accept with grace and gratitude whatever comes to you. If you gain no success in the backward ranks, that itself is your success. If you are given dishonour, that alone is your honour. If you receive insults, that alone is your respect. When abuse rains on you, that alone is the raining of flowers on you. Whatever happens, do not wrangle, raise no unnecessary controversy. A single word in this direction and all is lost. A single complaint, however small, destroys all excellence.
In fact, a superior person never complains - never ever. He has no complaints for he is grateful to God for whatever he receives.
Enough for today, we shall continue tomorrow.